Cannabis withdrawal

If you've been a regular user, withdrawing from cannabis can make you feel irritable, have trouble sleeping, experience headaches and nausea. Sometimes these symptoms can make you feel like quitting is just too hard. This page will equip you with information that helps you manage withdrawal symptoms.

What if withdrawals don't go away?

If you continue to feel discomfort after two weeks of abstinence from cannabis, it may be related to your underlying reasons for using cannabis in the first place (such as anxiety, depression or social issues). In these cases, you may want to seek the help of a GP or counsellor to discuss strategies to deal with these underlying issues. Rebates may be available through Medicare or private health insurers for services provided.

As yet, there are no widely available pharmacological treatments to help reduce cannabis withdrawal symptoms or to block the effects of cannabis, although studies are underway. There are a handful of studies that demonstrate that brief cognitive-behavioural treatments can be helpful for people trying to abstain or reduce their cannabis use.

What is cannabis withdrawal?

Cannabis withdrawal is similar to the withdrawal experienced from stopping tobacco smoking. As with tobacco, the withdrawal symptoms associated with cannabis result in relapse when trying to quit. Cannabis withdrawal is not the same for everybody, with various factors influencing its severity.

Factors that may influence the severity and duration of cannabis withdrawal include:

  • how much cannabis you use
  • how dependent you are
  • how sensitive you are to distress

Most studies suggest withdrawal symptoms start on the first day of abstinence, and usually peak within the first two-to-three days of quitting, with the exception of sleep disturbance. In general, withdrawal symptoms are usually over after two weeks, but this may vary based on how dependent you are on cannabis before trying to quit.

What are the symptoms of cannabis withdrawal?

When you stop using cannabis after prolonged use (either because it s difficult to get or because you are trying to quit) you may experience a variety of withdrawal symptoms, check out the video to learn more.

Cannabis withdrawal symptoms can include:

  • sleep difficulties including insomnia and strange dreams
  • mood swings/irritability
  • depression
  • anxiety/nervousness
  • restlessness/physical tension
  • reduced appetite
  • nausea
  • cravings to smoke cannabis

While individual symptoms can be relatively mild, in combination, they may motivate you to keep using (rather than quitting) or to relapse.

Is there any treatment for cannabis withdrawal?

You may find you need a counselor to help manage your cannabis withdrawal symptoms and prevent relapse. Or you may be able to manage the symptoms on your own. Getting a good night s sleep may be one of the most important factors for ensuring success. This may be difficult since sleep disturbance is one of the most common withdrawal symptoms, although it does not make it impossible. Practicing good sleep hygiene can help you to manage the sleep difficulties associated with withdrawal. For more information about sleep, see the cannabis sleep centre.

Simply recognising and being aware of the mild but important effects of cannabis withdrawal symptoms can help someone to successfully reduce their use or quit. Studies have shown the chances of successfully quitting cannabis are greatly increased once the intense phases of withdrawal have passed so it is important to developing a coping plan before trying to quit.

Fighting cravings

Keep yourself distracted, don t cave into the cravings, try and stay relaxed and don t let your mind make you think it s worse than it is.

See this video for a reminder when the urges strike!

Dealing with irritability

Quitting weed can sometimes cause you to feel cranky and irritable, so it s a good idea to thinking about the possible ways to combat it. That way, you won t end up biting off the head of your friend, boss, partner or kids and regretting it later on!

Distract yourself

If you re finding a situation stressful, change up your surroundings and do something different. Head outside for a break, excuse yourself from a conversation and distract yourself with a different setting. Head to our boredom page here for some ideas on things to keep your mind occupied.

Breathing

Ok, this seems pretty obvious, but don t forget to breathe! When you feel agitated or frustrated, you end up taking short, sharp breaths. Sometimes just taking a few moments to compose yourself and focus on slow deep breaths is enough to shift focus and improve your mood.

Don t deny you are angry

Acknowledge the way you feel at this point in time. It s natural to get irritated sometimes, but the feeling WILL pass.

Record your thoughts

Write down exactly how you are feeling. Documenting it will not only help release some of the tension, but you will begin to recognise patterns in your emotions and see that they pass with time.

Feeling stressed?

Feeling stressed out is a natural part of life, but when you re trying to quit weed (or anything else you might depend on), extra stress can be a trigger for you to pick up a joint/pipe/bong/whatever. Managing your stress levels and developing a plan for dealing with stress is crucial to staying on track.

The Australian Psychological Society has put together this short animation on dealing with everyday stress:

Check out more great stuff at http://psychology.org.au/

Try some of these tips, or print it and keep it to remind you later:

Keep stress under wraps

Stress is all about feeling wound up way-to-tight. When you re trying to quit or cut-down cannabis, which you may have used to manage stress, it is more important than ever to find ways to unwind.

  1. What makes you stressed? Figure it out so you ll know when it s coming.
  2. Are you getting stressed? Know what to look for in yourself.
  3. Stick to a schedule. Make a routine so you know what s coming up.
  4. Surround yourself with friends and family who get you.
  5. Stay fit and healthy!
  6. Practice positive self-talk!
  7. Relax meditate, chill, or just sit quietly somewhere peaceful.

The BBC has also developed this short animation explaining the causes and mechanics of stress:

Here s another short animation with some great tips and ideas to help you overcome stress: